You are hereDoes Covenant Eschatology Have Anything To Offer As A Response To The Democrat Agenda For Stem Cell Research?
Does Covenant Eschatology Have Anything To Offer As A Response To The Democrat Agenda For Stem Cell Research?
by Mickey Denen
I believe it does. In the kingdom established as a result of the Parousia of Christ, life would be made available through the leaves and fruit of the tree. The leaves would bring healing to the nations (Rev 22.2). I believe this passage requires us to take a strong “pro-life” position. I propose this pro-life position has a different understanding than the contemporary “modern Christian” view or the contemporary “post-modern” western cultural view. This view incorporates the right to life of the unborn, the infirmed and the aged whom modern and post-modern western society would dispose of, if these individuals were unwanted or perceived to be non-contributors to society. Covenant Eschatology, I propose, would also permit the use of technologies to heal the nations in all dimensions of life, not just spiritually, but economically, socially, emotionally and physically. The Greek word used in Revelation 22.2 means a service rendered from one to another. It could be medical, as this is where we get the word therapy, but can refer to any way one person attends or ministers to the needs of another.Introduction
I believe it does. In the kingdom established as a result of the Parousia of Christ, life would be made available through the leaves and fruit of the tree. The leaves would bring healing to the nations (Rev 22.2). I believe this passage requires us to take a strong “pro-life” position. I propose this pro-life position has a different understanding than the contemporary “modern Christian” view or the contemporary “post-modern” western cultural view. This view incorporates the right to life of the unborn, the infirmed and the aged whom modern and post-modern western society would dispose of, if these individuals were unwanted or perceived to be non-contributors to society. Covenant Eschatology, I propose, would also permit the use of technologies to heal the nations in all dimensions of life, not just spiritually, but economically, socially, emotionally and physically. The Greek word used in Revelation 22.2 means a service rendered from one to another. It could be medical, as this is where we get the word therapy, but can refer to any way one person attends or ministers to the needs of another.Biology 101
First, I will review some basic mammalian biology. Sexual reproduction involves the uniting of two haploid cells, gametes, which contain half the number of chromosomes as typical cell for that organism. The union of these two gametes normally produces a unique individual, with the typical number of chromosomes for that species, genetically discrete from the parents who produced the gametes. The creation of this new individual required the single female source gamete, egg, and the selection of one male source gamete, sperm cell, out of typically thousands. Why one male source gamete is selected over another is unknown at this time and I would argue is within the providence of God. The new individual begins to exist at the moment the gametes unite. In humans this typically occurs in the fallopian (uterine) tube. Within a few days, implantation in the human uterus occurs and a multicellular human exists with all of the genetic material of an adult human. I would argue human life exists from the point the gametes unite, as all of the criteria for life exits, namely the ability to reproduce and have metabolism. To deny the existence of human life at this point is to bastardize the biological definition of life and what defines humanity from a genetic point of view. The union of human gametes is the way God designed humans to reproduce. Finally, allow me to describe current methods used for mammalian cloning.
Cloning of mammalian cells is currently performed using a technique called somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT). This process involves taking a mature diploid cell from a donor mammal. This donor cell, which contains all of the genetic information or the donor organism, can come from any tissue in the body. This donor cell has its nucleus removed. This donor cell nucleus is placed an enucleated egg cell from a female of the same species. By this process the donor cell nucleus goes back in time, essentially forgetting the specialization it underwent, and reverting back to it primitive undifferentiated state. When this egg with the genetic material from the donor mammal is placed in a uterus that is properly prepared for implantation, the egg will go thorough the typical process of cell division and differentiation ultimately resulting in a new infant mammal with the same genetic material as the original donor mammal. This was the method used to clone the sheep, “Dolly.” Notice this new mammal was made not through a God ordained process but through a man-made process using the raw materials which God originally supplied. Notice that the donor egg is considered by nature as disposable, unfertilized eggs are routinely disposed of as part of female mammal’s menstrual cycle. The donor cell likewise could come from a tissue that frequently sheds cell, like skin, and be donated with no harm to the donor mammal.
Man’s Creative Nature
Man often tries to duplicate God’s creative nature as part of daily existence. I believe this is a fraction of what it means to be made in God’s image. Examples of this human creative nature is particularly found in music where we try to reproduce to sounds of God’s creation; art where we try to reproduce God’s creation on canvas, plaster, and other media. The nuclear engineer strives to solve the energy crisis of future by duplicating what God has done millions of times when she tries to fuse to hydrogen atoms to make helium and produce to energy release of the stars. Biological science and medical science unite in the desire to solve the problem of infertility amongst couples. There is likely no logical explanation for the desire that exists within many couples to have a child from their own “loins.” This desire exists and scientists have succeeded in duplicating God’s methods of bringing two human gametes together sometimes inside a woman’s body; sometimes outside her body. When this process occurs outside the woman’s body it is referred to in-vitro fertilization. I believe as Christians we should have no objection to this process in the same way we do not object to the Fine Arts or “cold nuclear fusion”, as long as immoral outcomes do not result.
The Dilemmas of Science and Philosophy
The difficulty in this discussion arises when we leave the simple biology of reproduction and move to the philosophical and spiritual aspects of human existence. Biology is not helpful in this discussion since it is only interested in that which can be observed and measured. Biology does cloud the picture some when we consider the case of identical twins. Identical twins start as a single cell from the union of a male source gamete and a female source gamete. Then presumably at the two-cell stage it becomes two individuals. Biology can not answer the question when the soul was inserted into the two individuals with identical genetic material. I am unaware of any theologian, philosopher or medial ethicist who argues they were both present in the single cell then split. If the souls were inserted at the two cell stage for twins, then why not the two cell stage for the singular pregnancy? The biology of twins raises some spiritual questions that are difficult to answer.
The difficulties in medicine, from my perspective, are determining when the “breath of life” enters and exits the biological organism, as this has been the traditional understanding of when we become or cease to be “living creatures.” I would argue that it may not be that simple. Humans are not the only species which have the breath of life (Genesis 1.30, 6.17, 7.15, 22) and breath of life seems to have a different meaning in the prophecies of the Bible. I would submit Covenant Eschatology has an answer to this when we see how “breath of life” is used in Revelation 11.11. Here the breath of life resurrects the dead witnesses symbolizing the ability of God to raise up the church, defeat her enemies, enter the presence of God and accomplish the will of God. What if this language was used in a similar in Genesis? Not so much the creation of living, breathing organisms out of inorganic material, but the separation of Man from that which would destroy him; giving him a life to live in the presence of God and accomplish the will of God. “The Fall of Adam” then is the rejection of that sanctified life, with its focus on giving glory to God, and choosing a life of self-gratification and self-glorification. So an organism has the “breath of life” when it exists in the presence of God and gives glory to God according to His designed purpose. As a result, a living creature is one which possesses the breath of life and exists in the presence of God and gives glory to God according to His designed purpose. This definition seems to fit the use of “living creature” in the Revelation 5-7, 14, 15, 17. Making the assumption that the uses of these two phrases are accurate, which may be a faulty assumption, how does this help the discussion at hand? When two human gametes meet, they create a new human organism with unique genetic make up. At that moment it exists in the presence of God, as it has not sinned to be separated from God, and has a unique purpose in the mind of God. This unique purpose has been in part determined by the genetic material God allowed to be joined at time of conception. Thus the sanctity of life is preserved from the moment of conception with these working definitions of “breath of life” and “living being” The dilemma which arises with identical twins and in-vitro fertilization also is solved with these definitions.
The Solution of Covenant Eschatology
First I will address the dilemma which arises in the case of identical twins, which I described above. Again we have two gametes joined in the God ordained way. Either something in the genetic combination or God’s providence brings about two individuals with the same genetic material. Either way from the moment of conception there exits living beings carrying out the designed will of God in His presence. What about in-vitro fertilization? In a similar way we have an organism created in the God ordained way, two gametes were joined, and a unique organism is created with the oversight of God. Remember even with in-vitro fertilization the ratio of male source gametes to female source gametes is thousands to one, so God’s providence is clearly involved in the selection of the genetic material of the new human. In my opinion, these humans need to be protected throughout their existence through the principles of justice, beneficence, and nonmaleficence. Finally I will address the related issue of genetic manipulation for the purpose of choosing the sex or creating a superior human. Using my working definitions God’s design for the genetic combination of the two gametes has been thwarted thus making this manipulation immoral. Additionally if the mechanism that decides why one male source gamete is selected over another is ascertained, for man to manipulate that process is to usurp the providence of God and is likewise immoral. The next logical question is how do these working definitions address the issues of human cloning?
The area of human cloning is where these working definitions bring about the greatest help to modern and post modern Western culture and Christianity. God has no providence over the selection of the genetic material; in fact the agent of selection of the genetic material is man. I would argue since man selects the genetic material and the cloned “egg” is created not with the union of two gametes, no “breath of life” is inserted and no “living creature” exits. If we understand the meanings of “breath of life” and “living creature” as defined above, then I submit if human cloning ever becomes possible it is appropriate to consider these cloned cells as a source of embryonic stem cells for the benefit of the person who donated the genetic material that was transferred to the egg. How could this be considered moral? First the new mammal with human genetic material was created from a man made process not a God ordained process, therefore no “breath of life” and no “living being.” Second sacrifice/killing of this new mammal, at the embryonic stage, to collect stem cells for the benefit of the original mammal could be thought of as within the realm of accomplishing the will of God.
What am I trying to say? First, Covenant Eschatology challenges us to bring healing to the nations is all dimensions of human existence. Second, I propose the traditional understanding of God’s action in the Garden maybe too superficial. The action of God was to breathe spiritual life into Man, that is bringing him into the presence of God, and making him a living being as a result. God’s action was not to make physical life out of inorganic material. God’s action was to create a situation where Man was in His presence, protected from what could destroy him, and could do His will. What He did in the Garden for Adam, He does for all humanity in the kingdom. Finally, with this new understanding of what it means to be a living being we can honor all human life and use the advances in modern biology and genetics to fulfill one dimension of the challenge to bring healing to the nations. I have not addressed what can and cannot be accomplished with stem cell, but I have presented a view that Christians could have no objection to the use of stem cells derived from cloned cells and yet be consistently pro-life.
I recognize this article is full of controversy and assumptions that may be invalid. I recognize I may be looking for a way to rationalize the use of embryonic stem cells to search for a cure for my daughter’s Type 1 Diabetes. I welcome comments to help mold my thinking and guide me to repentance where repentance is needed.